Monday, August 4, 2014

Zooma 10K and Half Marathon (2014)

Yesterday was the Zooma Chicago 10K and Half Marathon, presented by Muscle Milk Light.  I'm not going to lie - I've been looking forward to this race all week!

I was drawn to this race originally because a friend told me about their PR program and medal.  Unfortunately, they didn't have that program this year but I was still optimistic about the race.  The thing that sealed the deal was winning an entry from Live Half Full so though my entry was free, the opinions expressed in this blog are my own!

Packet Pick Up
There were two pick up locations and a mailing option as no race day pick up available (which is fine because I'm a big of a control freak and need to pick up things in advance).  I decided to go after work on Friday to the Radisson Blu Hotel, which was just a few blocks away.

I must admit that I wasn't a fan of the room layout; it was so small so you really didn't have many options.  I approached the pick up table where my name was entered in a computer and a bib and swag bag (including a shirt, hat and pair of Feetures socks) appeared moments later.  I quickly glanced around the room, stopped by a few vendor tables and quickly left.  Highlights from the expo?  $100 gift cards from Yoga Six, free Muscle Milk and a preview of the Hot Chocolate 15k medal!

Race Day
Zooma graciously offered shuttles between 5am and 6am down to Burnham Park from the Radisson Blu.  This was a fantastic perk as there is minimal parking down at the start line.

When was the last time you rode one of THOSE?!

My one suggestion to the race organizers would be to offer the shuttles later (5:00-6:30); because it only takes 10 minutes to get from the Loop to the start line, many arrived at 5:50am (myself included) and had to wait around until the 7am start.  I know that some people enjoy the early start but there were no pre-race festivities and it was a little chilly... HOWEVER, we did get to take a step back and enjoy THIS

Though I really wanted the special Chicago medal, I wanted to focus my energy on the Chicago Women's Half coming up at the end of the month so I stuck with the 10K (super happy I did!).  The half-ers and 10K-ers lined up together based on the pacing honor system.  The elites started at 6:59 and we started at 7:00 on the dot!

The weather was quite beautiful at the start; the sun was just rising and the temps were just below 70.  We made our way north on the lake front with an anticipated turn around at Solidarity Drive.  I thought a lot to myself about "taking my runs easy" for fear that I would lose steam at the end.  As many of you know, I started running February so finishing dead last is a huge fear for me.  I told myself, though, that if I wanted to try out new pacing, today would be the day.

I ran a little faster than my predicted half marathon pace (a turtle speed of 13:00), zipped through some aid stations and looked ahead eagerly for the Solidarity Drive tunnel.  I glanced down at my GPS and realized that I was easily running an 11:30 pace and wanted to at least finish the first half sub 37:00.  When I finally did, I settled down into a more casual pace, super excited at what I had done and looking forward to finishing strong.

Then I had to pee.  Really bad.  There was a port-o-let back at the last aid station so I continued running there.  There was just one port-o-let and there was someone waiting outside.  I must have added 2-3 minutes to my time but I couldn't skip it as there were no other options on the trail.

Finally, after all was said and done, I hit the path again but now my legs felt heavy.  I power walked a little bit and tried to pick up the pace but wasn't doing so hot.  I found the 2:50 pace group and stuck with them for another mile or so.  I walked through the final aid station and was excited to see the Zooma banners a few minutes later.  Picking up my pace just a little bit, I kept my eyes on the finish but forgot to add the final sprint!

Post Race
After crossing the finish line, I was handed a cold bottle of water, a banana and my medal.  Figuring that I would have lots to hold, I hopped over to gear check to pick up my shoulder sling and went back to the party.  
Sitting under the Muscle Milk Light tent while enjoying my bubbly, compliments of BareFoot Wine

There were lots of goodies, including wine by Barefoot Bubbly, Muscle Milk Light, a box of food, massage sessions by Accelerated Rehab, Honest Tea samples, KIND bars and restorative yoga.  I sat out on the grass and enjoyed the moment for a little while before hopping back on the shuttle to the Loop.

The swag level for this race was pretty out of control and is well worth it for the (theoretical) price tag.  It was a little-big race and though the park was pretty empty at all times (several folks were running the half marathon), it never felt dead.  I would highly recommend this race to other runners and hope they return to Chicago next year!

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